The 3rd Annual San Francisco Salsa Rueda Festival

| 03/14/2011

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the 3rd Annual San Francisco Salsa Rueda Festival. This is advertised as the “Largest Cuban Dance Festival in the United States” and it is no lie! The festival was jam-packed with workshops, dance parties, performances, and opportunities to meet people from around the world all there with one thing in common – love of Cuban dance and culture. I know I speak for everyone who attended that we all thank Nick and Serena from Salsa Vale Todo for organizing an event that is so rich in music, culture, and personal relationships.

This is the 3rd time I have attended the festival and I have to say that each year it really does improve. The new instructors that were brought this year were exceptional. The two women that I took workshops with, Kati Hernandez (L.A.) and Madeline Rodriguez (France), were incredible instructors and dancers. With Kati we worked on Congo Moves within Rumba. The class was upbeat and not at all easy. Kati demonstrated the moves with incredible power and grace. Madeline’s class was Guaguanco for Women. Although I have taken many rumba classes, none have been taught by a woman who was able to break down parts of the dance bit by bit. Even without speaking English, Madeline was able to demonstrate footwork, arm movement, shoulder movement, and more to a class of approximately 75 women.

I spoke with Randy Lyman (San Francisco) who has not only attended the festival for the past three years but also dances with the organizers of the event. He commented that the first year he was just trying to learn to dance. Now, after three years of dancing, working with Salsa Vale Todo, and now attending workshops this year, he feels he is now learning what it means to move… to dance… to connect with a partner. In his words, ‘It’s not just that I’ve learned some new moves. I’ve learned how to move and how to simply loosen up and have fun and really dance on the floor.” Veronica Acker (Washington DC) made similar comments. Her reply was, “After this festival I’m starting to actually feel like a dancer instead of someone who just goes out dancing. I enjoyed the rumba, mambo, bootyology and listening classes the most because they all taught me different components of the music and movement.”

The workshops are designed to reach people at all levels. If you had never danced before, that’s ok. You can take the beginner track and work your way through rueda and casino dancing. If you are an instructor, there were classes for you as well. The expanded workshops allowed everyone to have a chance to bring back a new skill, move, or knowledge.

The performances this year were pretty amazing. The beautiful thing about having performances each year is to see what people are doing elsewhere in the world. Whether they hail from Vancouver, Edmonton, Mexico, Venezuela, Japan, or different states in the USA, each team brings something unique. Many of the standout performances include formations and movements that break rueda teams out of the circle and spread them across the floor.

One of the highlights this year was having Timba Live as the band for Saturday night. I have to admit that I wasn’t super familiar with Timba Live until I saw them announced. After reviewing them a little bit I got excited. And they didn’t disappoint. The band’s sound was crystal clear and they just sounded amazing. People crowded around the front of the stage to dance, move, and share in the songs with the band. The ballroom was full of people moving to the music and enjoying the band. No one would argue that they were incredible. Each night’s band was good and people were dancing to the DJ well after the band would end. This year they had an after party in one of the side rooms that lasted until 5 am. People didn’t want to stop dancing.

The bottom line is that if you dance salsa rueda, Cuban salsa, AfroCuban, or are even slightly interested in the dance, this event is a must for you. Here in the United States we are very lucky to have an event like this that allows you to meet like-minded people who are crazy about the music and dance and inspires you to learn more. Randy agreed by saying, “It is like I have friends from all over [the world] and it is great to meet them all.” The workshops will elevate your dancing and you’ll have new things to take back to your own classes. As it is, I am already excited for next year.

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Category: Interviews, News, Upcoming Events

About the Author ()

Hello! I love Cuban salsa. While I really love all salsa music my heart, soul, and body just responds best to Cuban salsa. It doesn't matter if it is the early work of Celia Cruz or Ibrahim Ferrer or the current Bamboleo album - I'm gonna move to it! I live in the Washington DC area and work to promote Cuban dancing and music and try to educate people about what timba is... what rueda is... what salsa casino is... and how, historically, it all played a big part in them being able to go to a club and dance salsa.

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